Christmas covid rules

… a lot of confusion

Christmas covid rules in Madeira

Last week Wednesday, November 25th, the regional government of Madeira has issued extra covid measures for the coming weeks. The Christmas covid rules come on top of the rules that were already in place. Anyway, the extra rules did not come as a big surprise. Because with slightly over 200 cases now, things are not going well at all. Instead of the visitors to the island bringing new chains of virus transmission in, it’s the local chains that are worrying.

mistake

It all started with one big mistake. Previously, people who went to mainland Portugal – or abroad – for only a short period of less than 72 hours, were exempt from testing upon arrival at the airport.  This seemed not completely illogical. If you travel to Madeira as a visitor, you are exempt as well if you have a negative test result for covid-19 that is no older than the same 72 hours.

equality

Obviously, the authorities considered that they had to create equality on this level. Seeing that there were no local chains of transmission at the time, you could assume that everyone leaving on such a short stay on the continent or elsewhere were covid free when they left, and they are not a greater risk upon return than others who have been walking around freely for 72 hours after their test was taken.

What they did not consider was that a lot of people going to the continent for a short stay were young people participating in sports competitions. Younger people consider themselves immortal as it is. And as most of them are hardly affected by the coronavirus if they catch it, they are not really concerned. Imagine them in larger groups, gathering in sports events. They have a lot of physical contacts and there’s a lot of panting in the confinement of a locker room. So, there you have it. This was exactly what caused the first transmission chains on the island.

students

As most of these young people are still in school, or else at university, we saw the number of local transmissions explode. Some school classes were sent home because some students were infected but the number of local transmissions keeps increasing steadily anyway. The students infected their parents and siblings, after maybe already having infected teachers. Even a number of health professionals have been infected. Was that because they treated sports injuries? We will probably never know and it’s really not important.

No wonder the health authorities wanted to create extra measures to stop a further uncontrolled spreading of the virus. They could have – maybe even should have – closed the schools, but thy didn’t. Instead a number of extra Christmas covid rules were announced, some of which really make me raise an eyebrow.

visitors

For tourists and visitors, not much changed under the new Christmas covid rules. You still get a test upon arrival if you don’t already carry a negative result. And you still have to register with madeirasafe.com and follow all the existing rules I already explained in an earlier article here. Fortunately, you can still eat out, you can still visit a bar for a nice poncha, as long as you wear your mask when you are moving around. The difference lies in the measures for residents and returning emigrants.

extra rules for residents and migrants

Residents or migrants who return to the island have to undergo two PCR-tests under the Christmas covid rules. One upon arrival, another one 5 to 7 days after arrival. In the meantime, they have to self-isolate. Having many friends who fall in the category residents and knowing people whose children who have emigrated and will return home for Christmas, I can image the inconvenience this causes. What I can also imagine, is the many questions that arise after this was announced.

gobsmacked

One of my friends has just arrived back from Germany. I called him today, to see if he needed anything as he is a resident and has to self-isolate. He did not need any help at this time, but he did tell me what happened at the airport where he took the test. He asked the obvious question: where and when and by whom will the second covid-19 test be taken? You can imagine he was gobsmacked when they told him they didn’t know. He was given a scrap of paper with three telephone numbers. Careful readers will recognise the numbers as the ones of the Airport Operation of IASaúde, the same ones that are usually not answered, as we have learned from several visitors who had to wait for their test results (a lot) longer than 12 hours.

This gave me enough cause to write an email to the ministry of tourism. There is more in this mail, as they seem to be slacking. The website they run still has not added these new rules, so it’s time to give them a shake. When (or rather if) I get an answer I will add it here.

Christmas covid rules 1

inequality

What’s also strange is the 5 to 7 days range they indicate for the second test. So randomly, they decide whether you have to be in confinement for 5, 6 or 7 days. I think this is not only ridiculous, but it creates inequality for which there is no legal basis. Speaking of which, there is also the matter of the legal inequality that these measures create. Inequality between visitors on one hand and residents and returning emigrants on the other.

I have already been asking around on the internet. And the emotional answer many Madeirans and foreigners living here gave was along the lines of ‘if you don’t like the Christmas covid rules, just stay away’. Yes, I can see that people are afraid and don’t want others messing with their safety. But especially the Portuguese, who have lived under a dictatorship till not all that long ago, should appreciate the function of a constitution. And they should really not allow any government, national or regional, to mess with basic civil rights at their own convenience. There should be a balance between what’s necessary and what’s reasonable. And there certainly should not be inequality between individual persons.  Such inequality has no legal basis and is therefore simply illegal.  

emotional reactions

Looking at the internet, I also found the regional president Miguel Albuquerque threatening with prison sentences for anyone not respecting the confinement rules. Asking around on Facebook resulted in the same emotional reactions. But one person tried to get to the bottom of it and came up with the fact that there is a state of emergency.

We have indeed learned that the national government in Lisbon has again called the state of emergency for the entire Portuguese territory. Clearly, that includes the autonomous regions of Madeira and the Azores. But the website of the regional government says on its front page that Madeira is in state of calamity. And that is not the same and offers a lot fewer liberties to the government.  It is probably a mere lack of decent communication. Then again, the Madeiran authorities are notorious for that. But even in a state of emergency, I wonder if creating legal inequality is not in violation with the constitution.

The christmas covid measures make some eyebrows lift. State of emergency? Then why does the official website states state of calamity.

Christmas covid rules: less fun

The rest of the new Christmas covid rules is of less consequence for your freedom of movement. Unfortunately, they do take away a number of fun things that we normally enjoy during the festive season. There won’t be ‘noites do mercado’, evening markets with a lot of entertainment, in any municipality of Madeira, vending stalls seem to be allowed to sell alcoholic drinks only as take-away (where’s the fun in that?), no funfair in Funchal and the fireworks this year will be limited and people are recommended to see them from their homes.

For those who can’t, there will be – again limited – viewing points in Funchal. The St. Sylvester’s race has been cancelled and Christmas celebrations in the churches will have to comply with the general measures. The famous Missas de Parto will take place, but without the traditional gathering for breakfast afterwards. Some things are not completely clear, but I’m sure that they will be later this month.

Christmas covid rules 3

Restaurants are lucky under the new Christmas covid rules, they can remain open until midnight on December 30, and up to 01.00 am on new years eve.

 

Christmas covid rules 5

COVID-19 in Madeira: daily updates can be found on an earlier post.

41 thoughts on “Christmas covid rules”

  1. Despite the more subdued festivities, I am glad to be back on the island next week and to get away from the cold UK weather.

    Also, we arrive as EU citizens and go home as rebellious Brits 😂😂

    Reply
    • Can you enlight us which scools were closed and in which schools there as transmission of the virus (students passing it on to other students, teachers, etc)?

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      • Unfortunately, I don’t have that information at the ready, Luis. Every time a school closes they will say in which municipality, and as far as I know there are schools in Funchal, Santa Cruz, Caniço, Câmara de Lobos and Ribeira Brava that have put the ‘contingency plan’ into place meaning – I believe – they close the school. But usually, they won’t tell you the names of the affected schools. But it is clear that the schools that were closed, were closed for the reason of virus transmission withing the school – staff and/or students.

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        • Im am sorry Peter, this is a good article but the information regarding schools is not correct. There were specific classes from several schools sent home when one of the students tests positive, but no schools have been shutdown due to outbreaks. The contigency plan is activated every time one school member tests positive but this does not mean the school is closed nor does it mean the infection took place in school. In fact, up to this point, there is only one case on a nursery where two babies under 2 year old were contaminated by another baby. In all the other cases the infection took place in the household and no other members in school were infected. All this information is provided daily by the Education Secretary.

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          • I did not know that and I did not find it during my research, Luis, thank you for bringing this to my attention. As I said, I did not know, I obviously misunderstood. In the original article on my web site, I have now altered the text accordingly.
            I have written this article in the first place to explain to new arrivals what to expect, and what the rules are. I did not really concentrate on ad-hoc measures taken whenever there was a new chain of transmissions. To be honest, I am much more worried about the new rules concerning the second test. So far, I know that the information about how, where, by whom and when the second test is taken is still not available. A friend of mine who returned from Germany last Monday was tested at the airport and received his negative result after ten hours. So far so good. On Thursday he phoned, only to be told to be patient as ‘they’ will call him for the second test. They did not know when he was going to get a call. It is now day 6 and he still has no news. This looks like becoming a lottery. If he would have been a visitor there would have been no second test-rule for him. As he lives here (alone) he must take a second test. But he does not know until when he is ‘in prison’ depending on friends to do his shopping. This is not workable and the government can not ask of people to wait until they decide randomly when to take a second test. I know this is not about your question, but it is where the emphasis of the article lies.

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            • Thank you Peter. Yes, I follow your posts in your blog and they are very useful for travellers and for the community living in the island. Although I am madeirean I am very interested in looking at an “outside” perspective and therefore I like going through the comments sections.
              I agree the 2nd test still needs some clarification namely what is interpreted as an emigrant. I think the second test should apply to residents and visitors who will share the same house as residents. Those are the ones that should concern the autorithies the most, and the test should be made 5 days after arrival, but this is my personal view. Thank you for your contribution.

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              • A second test for people who share the same house with residents would indeed make sense. But the whole system is rattling, they seem to have lost the touch they had initially. I know of various people who have not been contacted for the second test after the 7 days and more, and I know of one couple that was contacted. If you try to phone the three famous numbers of the Airport operation, more often than not, no-one picks up the phone, and in the rare case one of the numbers is finally answered, they won’t speak English. They tell you they will connect you, the phone rings for an eternity and no-one picks up again. This is NOT GOOD. On top of that, Albuquerque has been going on and on about people to isolate until the second test comes negative, but at the airport, people are advised that they have to isolate until they get the negative result of the first test, but that no-one can oblige them to stay home after that.
                Fortunately, JPP have (finally) picked up on this situation (it was in the local gossip rag) and they usually won’t let go until matters are solved.
                Overall, there are two things: a complete fail in communication, and the ones who should know don’t. You can’t expect people to follow rules if they turn out to be a lottery.

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  2. You are to congratulated for this research Peter – I know it must have taken a lot of time, but I know there are a number of people who have found it invaluable. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Terry. The point is, all this information is somewhere on the Net. But it’s very scattered, many things are not translated. On top of that, the original Portuguese text is often archaïc and the sort of language used in law texts, which hardly anyone really understands, not even the Portuguese. Trust Google Translate to mess it up even more. As I have a curious nature, I want to know what’s going on, and the only way is to go and find out. Being retired, I have plenty of time to do just that! 😀

      Reply
  3. It is what we did. Normally, we spend the summers aboard our yacht in and around the Netherlands. This year we stayed put. First, our flights to Amsterdam early May were cancelled (Thank you, TAP, for still not sending a refund, not even a voucher), then there were a lot of restrictions and most marinas closed, to the decision was easy. It turned out that the Netherlands, undisciplined lot like we are, ignored many covid rules with the effect that they are again in semi-lockdown. Life is simply a lot more ‘normal’ and pleasant here.

    Reply
  4. All the school COVID cases and closures have been well covered in the local press, and although I can’t remember them all, there must be over 20 so far, maybe nearer 30. There doesn’t seem to be a master list, but as they close (or activate a contingency plan), they then reopen. There should be a current status list on the RAM secretary of education site.

    This article seems to have misunderstood the concept of local transmission. For example a few days ago a record of 32 new cases was recorded. The largest group element of this number was within a single family, infected by someone who had arrived from Portugal and originally tested clean. Unfortunately two of those are now in hospital in poor condition. The virus arrives and spreads despite the island rules, and peoples respect for the protocols.

    The statuses of State of Emergency and Calamity are being manipulated by the GR, in order to make the new regulations compulsory. Madeira is not in a state of emergency, and never has been, but without these tools cannot enforce the measures currently imposed.

    Reply
    • That is not accurate, Marco, Madeira has been in the state of Emergency in the early stages of the pandemic, and when the National government recently declared the state of emergency again, they emphasised that it was instated in the entire Portuguese territory, including the autonomous regions.

      As for misunderstanding the concept of local transmission, I can only say I use the official information available. UIn the example you mention, there is some unverified information and some information is missing. As it is possible to test on the continent 72 hours prior to boarding a plane to Madeira, you could well test negative there, and still get infected between the test and travelling to Madeira. As a lot of students are involved in the recent transmission chains, this is very plausible. As for a large number infected in one single family, that has not been in the official information. I only use official information that I can actually check. What you say could well be true, but it cannot be verified.

      Reply
      • I didn’t say it wasn’t in a State of Emergency Peter, I said it is not in a state of emergency. Note the use of capitalization if you understand that, as thats how it’s written.

        The information I provided, is verified, first hand, from the family infected. Thats even better than reading it in the local newspaper, believe me.

        Reply
        • I do not understand what you mean with that you mean in your first sentence, Marco. Capitalization or not, the national government in Lisbon has declared the state of emergency again, for the entire Portuguese territory. Yet, on the website of the regional government it still says ‘estado de calamidade’. That is not the same and has different consequences. The use of capital letters ha no effect on that, I should think, so I do not get your point.

          As for the information about the family infected, of course, that is first hand and is doubtlessly true. Only, that was not information available to the general public. No matter, the emphasis is now being put on schools, not at all what my intention was when publishing the article. As it is aimed especially at travellers coming to Madeira, what happens in schools or around schools or in school buses, you name it, it not really of much consequence to foreign visitors to the island.

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    • And it includes a list of transmissions concerning schools. The list states what the initial measures are, but it usually ends with ‘until further notice’, which isn’t very precise. Anyway, my article was primarily aimed at non-Madeirans travelling to Madeira, the situation in schools probably does not affect them much. It’s nice to mention it for the overall view, but it is not the information most sought after by travellers.

      Reply
      • Hi Peter, the schoo situation update bulletin that is published daily in the site above clearly states when classes go back to school. I suggest you look for “Regressa” which means “returned” and you will see it is clearly stated when classes are sent home and when they are allowed to return. I am not sure what intermediate information you are looking for when you say that the information is not very precise. Everything that is relevant for the community is in there.

        It should also be noted that as I said the term “transmission” in the school ground is not mentioned anyehere. This is very simple: if a student tests positive his class goes home for 14 days and get tested. This does not mean transmission in school. The same way if that infected student went for a meal in a restaurant that does not mean there was transmission in that restaurant. If that student got a bus home does that not mean there was transmission on the bus and so on.

        Reply
    • Not all that much, Marie, though it is a wake-up call for all of us. To be honest, we had to remind ourselves that, though we felt really safe, there is still a pandemic raging. We felt very comfortable over summer, so much so that we did not hesitate to hug or kiss our friends in a traditional Portuguese way if they were living here or had been here for some time. As things are now, we are much more aware that we shouldn’t do this, really keep more distance and keep the hugging reserved for our own little bubble. We wear our masks always where we should and we always disinfect our hands where required. We do try and avoid large concentrations of people. Other than that we still feel very safe, the atmosphere is still quite relaxed and not as grim as elsewhere in the world, not by far. We still feel very comfortable going out for drinks, but we won’t go if the weather is bad and we have to sit inside. Eating out is never a problem, as the restaurants have adapted their lay-out long ago. Having said all that, we live in the far West of the island, far away from the agglomeration Funchal-Caniço. .So avoiding crowds is not very difficult for us. We don’t go to Funchal if we don’t have to for the time being.

      Reply
  5. In the UK, and possibly elsewhere, a new variant of covid-19 has been detected. It is believed that this strain is behind the rapid increase in infections. At this moment it is unknown if the vaccines now being used are effective against this new strain.

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  6. I only found out about these new restrictions here: I’ve only returned here for a week (I’m spending a lot of time in the UK owing to family illness). There’s no information on madeirasafe.com or at the airport and I’d certainly have deferred my trip if I knew I was going to have to spend the week indoors. What happens, I wonder, if I have not been contacted about a second test before I’m due to leave? There does seem to be very little reliable information…

    Reply
    • It is up to each individual to check the most up to date information regarding entry requirements in each region.

      The official information to visitors to Madeira is provided here:

      http://www.visitmadeira.pt/en-gb/useful-info/corona-virus-(covid-19)/information-to-visitors-(covid-19)

      Where it states:

      “3.2 All travellers residing in the territory of the Autonomous Region of Madeira, as well as all Madeiran emigrants, their families, and students attending higher education establishments or in Mobility Programs, arriving at Madeira and Porto Santo airports, on flights coming from any territory outside Madeira Islands, are required to perform a second PCR test to screen for SARS-CoV-2, between the fifth and seventh days after the first test has been performed, and must guarantee, in the period between disembarkation and second test, prophylactic isolation at home as well as full compliance with the surveillance and self-reporting of symptoms and COVID-19 prevention measures.
      Travellers/tourists, non-residents, who travel to Madeira Islands on a leisure / tourism basis are exempt from this procedure.”

      Reply
      • Indeed. If you go to the visitmadeira.pt website you have to wait for the appropriate news item to scroll into view, there isn’t even a permanent link on the front page. Going directly to covidmadeira.pt seems to be a better bet, but you have to know the site exists. It’s in everyone’s interests for the rules to be widely known.

        And even there the information isn’t clear, especially if, as the original article implies there may be delays in testing. If I arrive as a tourist and decline to get tested I can leave at the end of my stay and return home as long as I isolate. If I arrive as a resident under the new rules and the second test is delayed can I then leave the country again as long as I’ve isolated in the meantime? What is the maximum period I might have to wait for a second test? I’m also living alone and I have enough food to get to around day 6 but what am I supposed to do if I don’t get a test by then? I have, incidentally, asked the same questions (in Portuguese) of apoio.covid@madeira.gov.pt but they’ve had to refer the query to a higher authority.

        Reply
        • Just to add that with some persistence I did get through to IASAUDE – eventually – and they were extremely sympathetic and helpful which is a great encouragement when we’re all trying to do the right thing.

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  7. Interesting to see that the first vaccinated person arrived in Madeira this week. I wonder what the procedure will be when travellers are fully immune – presumably there will be some sort of “passport”.

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  8. Looks like travellers from the UK are going to be few and far between this Christmas now that this new variant of the virus is rife and Europe closes its borders to Brits

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  9. Hooray! The EU and UK have reached an accord and a trade deal is being signed. After all the humming and harring, after all the brinkmanship a deal is reached which could have been reached over 3 years ago.

    The final details should be out soon so we can see how it impacts on a) UK citizens resident in EU states b) annual pension increments to them c) regular travellers to & from EU states d) business, agriculture etc etc.

    Reply

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